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What to Expect in Court for a Car Accident

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Very few car accident cases end up in court. Instead, over 90% of personal injury disputes will settle. However, going to court is sometimes a possibility if the person who struck you refuses to settle for a fair amount, or if he denies that he is responsible for the crash.

In this article, we’ll give you the highlights of what to expect in a car accident lawsuit. If you need legal representation, contact an Austin pedestrian accident attorney today.

Pre-Trial Hearings

Unless you are in small claims court, you can expect many hearings before your trial. These hearings serve different purposes. You might have a dispute around what documents each side needs to hand over to the other. A judge needs to hear argument and then decide.

There might also be a summary judgment hearing. A judge can grant summary judgment when the facts are in the favor of one side and there is no chance the other side could win. If you win on summary judgment, you don’t need to go to trial. Summary judgment is rare in car accident cases, but your attorney might need to defend against the other side’s summary judgment motion or submit one of her own.

Trials

In a trial, both you and the defendant get to present evidence and witnesses. As the person bringing the lawsuit, you will present evidence first.

The evidence your attorney uses will depend on the circumstances. For example, witnesses can testify about what happened, and you can introduce photographs. Whoever took a photograph will need to testify about when they took it. After your lawyer presents evidence, the defendant gets a chance to put on a case, which can include presenting witnesses and other evidence.

Testifying in Court

If your case gets to trial, then you might have to testify. You will talk about many of the same things you discussed in your deposition, such as:

  • How the accident unfolded
  • What you did in the moments before the accident and after
  • The extent of your injuries

The defendant’s lawyer can also cross-examine you, which could be stressful. Lawyers handle cross-examination differently. Some are very aggressive and will try to trip you up while others might ask only a few questions. Everything depends on the lawyer’s theory of the case.

If you are nervous, your lawyer can help you prepare for your testimony in the same way you were prepared for your deposition. Remember to always listen to the question being asked and don’t volunteer any information. If you need a break, ask the judge, especially if you are getting emotional.

Verdict

You might decide to have a bench trial, which means the judge will decide who wins, but you most likely will have a jury trial. After the lawyers make final arguments, the jury withdraws to deliberate. If you win the case, you get a “judgment,” which is a piece of paper. Ultimately, it is up to you to get the defendant or his insurer to pay you.

Contact a Trusted Car Accident Lawyer

Car accident trials are stress. Fortunately, if you hire the right lawyer, you will be in safe hands. Speak to Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at Law, to discuss your case. Our firm offers a free consultation.

How To Find Witness For A Car Accident

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On average, a person is hurt in a car accident around every two minutes and five seconds in Texas, according to the Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Crash Statistics for recent years. The implications of these injuries are extensive and affect many areas of your life, so it’s good to know that those accident victims have legal options. However, success depends on your ability to prove that the other driver was at fault – which can be challenging.

Often, you can bolster your case by providing information about those who may have observed the crash. Your Austin auto accident attorney can provide guidance and support, but it may help to review some answers to questions about how to find witnesses for a car accident. 

Can other vehicle occupants serve as witnesses?

People who were in the car with you may be helpful, but their credibility may be in question when an insurance company reviews the information. A claims adjuster knows that you’re likely to be in the car with friends, family, or acquaintances. These people could be viewed as biased, while neutral witnesses may be more favorable.

How do I find a neutral witness?

Anyone who may have seen, heard, felt, or otherwise perceived the accident could be a potential witness to support your claim. If you can access anyone in cars that were not involved in the crash, you should attempt to address them. Pedestrians, bicyclists, and any passersby are also potential witnesses.

What should I do if I find a witness to my car accident?

Get name and contact information from anyone who’s willing to talk with you. Avoid making any statements about the crash, especially as they relate to a fault. Anyone who can act as a witness for you may also be asked about the incident. That person may reveal information that doesn’t support your interests.

Can I use other evidence to support my claim?

Even if your efforts in getting a witness aren’t fruitful, there are other sources of evidence that you can use when filing a claim.

  • Use your cell phone to capture pictures of the scene of the accident, property damage, your injuries, and other physical conditions;
  • Scan the area around the crash, as there may be businesses in the region that have installed security cameras; and,
  • Jot down your recollections of how the collision happened, being as detailed as possible. This information may be critical for your claim, and your compensation could depend upon your ability to refresh your memory in the future.

Set up a Free Consultation with an Austin Auto Accident Attorney

This information on how to find a witness for a car accident may be useful, but this is just one of many aspects of such a case. There are countless additional factors, all of which can affect your right to compensation. If you were hurt and want to know more about your rights, please contact Robert Littlefield Buford III, Attorney at Law in Austin, TX.

Austin Dog Bites

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Austin Dog Bites

Our attorneys at the law offices of The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford understand the compromising situation a person experiences psychically and psychologically after being attacked or viciously bitten by a dog. Though it can sometimes be a traumatic experience, especially for children but also for adults, there are parts of Texas law which can ensure that you receive compensation for this particular type of personal injury. If you or a loved one has been bitten or mauled by a dog, our team is on your side. In considering us for your legal representation, we will help you to understand dog bites laws in Texas while we build your claim and recover compensation for your injuries.

Texas Dog Bite Laws

Unlike a majority of other states in the nation, the state of Texas does not have a specific statute related to dog bites. This means that there is no specific state law that holds the owner liable or responsible for his or her dog in the event of an attack. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have legal footing, however. Case law and precedent have established rules regarding liability for dog bites in the state. In Marshall v. Ranne, the Texas Supreme Court concluded that in the question of dog bites, the state would adhere to the one-bite rule.

What Is the One-Bite Rule?

The one-bite rule essentially means that a dog in Texas gets one “free” bite before its owner can be held liable for any damages caused to another party. This is also known as a negligence-based theory of liability. The logic for the rule is based in the idea that if the dog has not previously bitten someone, the owner has no way of knowing of the dog’s propensity for aggression; however, once the dog has bitten someone, the owner must act in a reasonable manner in order to prevent the incident from occurring again. If the owner fails to do this, they are liable based on their breach of this duty, i.e. negligence.

Your Right to File a Claim

Because Texas follows this type of negligence-based liability when it comes to dog attacks, those who are bitten or mauled by a dog have the right to file a lawsuit against the owner of the dog to seek damages. In order to win your suit, you will have to prove that the owner owed you a duty of care (i.e. you were not trespassing or doing something illegal), the owner breached that duty of care (by failing to properly restrain their dangerous dog or prevent the dog from attacking you), and that you suffered harm as a result.

If you can prove the elements above, then you can seek damages for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and all other types of economic or noneconomic losses you have suffered.

Our Experienced Attorneys Can Help

Because you may have no idea whether or not the dog that bit you has ever bitten another person or animal before, you may have no idea whether or not you have a strong foundation for bringing a claim against the dog’s owner. Our law offices of The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford can help you to understand what you need to prove and gather all evidence necessary to your case. To learn more about dog bites laws in Austin and how our Austin personal injury lawyers can assist you, contact us online or by phone today.

Domestic Violence and the Parent-Child Relationship in Texas Family Law

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Family Violence

Family Law Attorney Serving Clients in Austin, TX

Whether you are going through a divorce and are concerned about how the court will make decisions about child custody, or if you have recently been accused of family violence and are worried about how it will impact your ability to maintain custody, an experienced family lawyer in Austin, TX can help.

In Austin, Chapter 153 of the Texas Family Code governs the parent-child relationship—or, in other words, child custody. In Texas, child custody is known by the term “conservatorship.” In effect, the term conservatorship is used to make clear what legal rights and responsibilities a parent in Texas has. In determining conservatorship, the court must pay attention to specific provisions concerning family violence. To better understand how a domestic violence conviction can impact a court’s decision concerning the parent-child relationship, we should take a closer look at the statute.

What is Conservatorship in Austin, TX?

Before we explain how a history of family violence or domestic violence can impact a court’s decision about child custody, it is important to understand how conservatorship works. The statute provides for two different kinds of conservatorship in Austin, Texas:

  1. Sole managing conservatorship; and
  2. Joint managing conservatorship.

Conservatorship, or custody, does not refer to the amount of time a child spends with a particular parent. Rather, it refers to a parent’s right to make certain decisions about his or her child’s upbringing, including decisions about healthcare and education.

History of Domestic Violence and Child Custody Decisions

According to the statute, when a court makes a decision about conservatorship, it must take into account past instances of domestic violence. Specifically, the law states that the court “shall consider evidence of the intentional use of abusive physical force, or evidence of sexual abuse, by a party directed against the party’s spouse, a parent of the child, or any person younger than 18 years of age.” And the court looks back two years for evidence of domestic violence.

When the court finds evidence of family violence, the statute specifies the following:

  1. Court may not appoint a joint managing conservatorship if family violence resulted in a pregnancy;
  2. Court shall consider the history of family violence in determining whether it will “deny, restrict, or limit” a child’s time spent with a parent; and
  3. Court may not allow a parent to have access to a child when there is evidence of a recent history or pattern of family violence.

The statute also allows the court to make certain other decisions about child custody when there is evidence of family violence.

Contact an Austin Family Violence Attorney

As you can see, the Texas laws concerning conservatorship and family violence are complicated. A Texas DUI and family violence lawyer can discuss your situation with you today. Contact The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford to speak with some of the best family law attorneys Austin has to offer.

Should I Be Worried That My Taxi Driver Could Be Drunk?

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Family Violence

Most of us, if we are out on the town, will do the responsible thing and call a taxi or a Lyft to get us home safely, especially if there has been drinking involved. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that your driver may have had a few himself. If this happens, you have a couple of options with which to seek recourse.

Statistics & Prevalence

There is evidence to suggest that the rate of drunk driving incidents has actually decreased significantly since Uber and Lyft began operations in many Texas cities. It does conform to common sense; if someone is too intoxicated to drive, the availability of ride-sharing plausibly could present a safer alternative. However, there have been multiple incidents with ride-share drivers attempting to work while intoxicated, and property damages and injuries have resulted. While the occurrence of DWI incidents remains comparatively low, it is still a good idea to be on the alert when calling a ride-share or taxi.

Taxi companies, on the other hand, are much more strictly regulated. Background checks are done going back as far as is legally permissible (usually 7 years), and the number of taxi drivers who have DWI or other dangerous convictions on their record tends to be lower. Still, there are some – data from 2014 estimates around 8 percent of Houston cabbies have an offense of this nature on their record.

If You Have An Accident

If you are in an accident involving a taxi driver, the questions of insurance and liability are fairly settled matters of law. Texas cities, especially Houston, regulate cab companies very strictly. Taxicabs qualify as common carriers under Texas law, which means that they are held to a higher standard of care than an average person. The rationale is that cabs and other common carriers hold themselves out to the public as providing a safe, effective means of transportation, and thus they should be held to such a standard, since they took the initiative.

However, this standard does not apply, as of this writing, to ride-share companies in Texas. Neither Uber nor Lyft is classified as a common carrier in Texas, which means that their services are no more regulated than the average merchant’s. This can leave a passenger open to significant liability, especially if they lack personal insurance. Both companies do insure their drivers, but for an amount which is much lower than the cost of most accidents. A suit may establish negligence, but there is very little in the way of case precedent or legal holding that will establish negligence or wrongdoing as a matter of law.

Have An Attorney At Your Fingertips

The likelihood of getting in an accident while in an Uber, Lyft or taxicab is small, but it still exists. If it happens to you, having an experienced DWI lawyer in Austin on your side can be critical. The Austin DWI attorneys at The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford are well versed in DWI law, and stay up to date on any potential changes. Contact us today at 512-476-4444 to set up an initial appointment, or use our web form.

What are the Signs of Family Violence?

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Family Violence

Crimes involving family violence are a serious issue in the state of Texas that are aggressively investigated and prosecuted by authorities. When police respond to a call involving family violence, they often have to make spur of the moment determinations about whom, if anyone, to arrest. Unfortunately, this often results in innocent parties being arrested or prosecuted for crimes they did not commit. When this occurs, it is critical for people that have been accused of family violence to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect their legal rights.

Family Violence can be Prevented

While, as criminal defense lawyers, we generally work with people who have already been accused of family violence, as members of the community we believe that it is best to prevent family violence before it starts. In addition, it is important to help people that are the victims of family violence and who not have the resources or ability to report it to authorities. As a result, it is important for everyone to be on the lookout for signs of family violence and to offer assistance to those who need it. Some of the more common signs of family violence include the following:

    • Frequent injuries that are explained away as “accidents”;
    • Regular absences from work or school;
    • Attempts to hide injuries using clothing or accessories;
    • Fear and anxiety;
    • Lack of access to financial resources;
    • Bruises and other soft-tissue injuries;
    • Constant reporting to a partner regarding where a person is and what he or she is doing; and
    • Low self-esteem.

When family violence does occur, it is often unclear as to which person was the aggressor in a particular situation. Even if violence did occur, it may have been legally justified as self-defense. For this reason, anyone accused of family violence should contact a lawyer immediately.

Call an Austin Criminal Defense Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
Allegations of family violence are serious issue and can have a substantial impact on a person’s life. Fortunately, an attorney can often effectively mitigate the consequences that people who are accused of violence against family members are facing and may even be able to have the case completely dismissed. To schedule a consultation with one of our Austin criminal defense lawyers, call The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford today at 512-476-4444.

5 Ways to Help Reduce Family Violence in Your Community

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Family Violence

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately one-third of women are victims of family violence. Family violence also regularly affects children and men and can cause serious harm. In addition, those accused of family violence can face serious criminal charges and potentially harsh consequences if they are convicted. It is important for communities to work together to reduce family violence and the following are five ways in which your community may start to make a difference.

Be Aware Of The Signs — In order to recognize family violence, you must be familiar with the signs, which can differ from one household to another. Signs go well beyond visible injuries and can include withdrawal and isolation of the victim, controlling behavior of the abuser, and more.

Use Technology For Community Support — There are many safety apps for your smartphone that allow you to send an alert if violence is occurring. If you believe someone is a victim and they do not have a smartphone, see if your community can pool resources to ensure they can get the technology they need for assistance.

Call the Police — If you suspect that family violence is occurring in your neighborhood or if you witness an incident, you should not hesitate to call the authorities. Intervening yourself can be a tricky and even dangerous situation, however, calling the police may help keep someone safe.

Check In — If you suspect that a friend, relative, or neighbor is suffering from family violence, make sure to regularly call or meet with that person to see if they are alright. Even if you do not directly address the topic of family violence, simply knowing you are there for support may make them more willing to reach out if they need help.

Spread Education — Because family violence often happens behind closed doors, many people are not aware of the magnitude of the problem. Educating your community about family violence can not only reduce the number of abusers but may help to provide support and assistance to victims.

Call An Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Family violence affects many aspects of a community, including the criminal justice system. If you have been arrested on suspicion of family violence or have been charged with a crime, you should call an Austin criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Call the law firm of The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford at 512-476-4444 for help today.

Could Police have Marijuana Breathalyzers Soon?

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Marijuana Breathalyzers soon?

Determining whether a driver is under the influence (DUI) of marijuana has long been an issue for law enforcement officers in the state of Texas. Unlike alcohol, marijuana intoxication is often difficult to detect and cannot be accurately measured through a roadside test like a breathalyzer. As a result, DWI convictions based on marijuana were often difficult to obtain. This may soon be changing, however, as CBS News reported late last year that a California based company has created a marijuana breathalyzer that will be able to measure that amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a person’s breath. These devices are being developed largely in response to the perception of an increased problem with stoned drivers in states like Colorado and Washington that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

A Breathalyzer will not Result Automatic Convictions

Many people are under the mistaken impression that breathalyzer evidence, whether related to alcohol or other substances, is incontrovertible and will always result in a conviction. This is certainly not the case, and there are many situations in which an experienced attorney can cast doubt on the results of a breathalyzer test or even have the evidence excluded completely. Some of the more common legal challenges to breathalyzer evidence include the following:

  • Arguing that evidence that was gathered was done so in violation of a suspect’s constitutional rights;
  • Introducing evidence that the breathalyzer used was improperly calibrated; and
  • Establishing that  the officer that performed the test was improperly trained.

Whether any of these or other defenses applies in a particular case depends on a variety of factors, so it is important for anyone that has been accused of drunk or drugged driving to have their case thoroughly reviewed by an experienced attorney. In addition, even when there are no defenses available, an attorney can often negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor handling a case that avoids the more serious criminal penalties that a defendant may be facing.

Contact an Austin DWI Lawyer Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been accused of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you should contact an experienced Austin criminal defense attorney immediately. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our lawyers, call The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford today at 512-476-444.

Can You Pay Your Way Out of a DWI?

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Pay out of a DWI?

Drunk driving has serious consequences for the driver and, in many cases, innocent victims. Under Texas law, if a person operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and “causes the death of another by accident,” that is considered intoxication manslaughter. When committed by an adult, this is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in state prison.

“Affluenza” Case Sparks Public Outrage Over Probation-Only Sentence

But not every case of intoxication manslaughter is treated the same. Consider one highly publicized Texas case. In 2013, a 16-year-old male killed four people and seriously injured two others in a car accident. The teenager had alcohol and drugs in his system—at three times the legal limit in Texas. Police also said the defendant had stolen two cases of beer from a store just before the fatal accident.

This case attracted international media attention when a psychologist, called as an expert witness by the defendant’s attorney, testified the teenager suffered from “affluenza,” a mental disorder resulting from growing up in a “family that felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.” Prosecutors argued that the defendant’s wealth should not serve as an excuse and asked for the maximum adult prison sentence of 20 years.

But a juvenile court judge decided that was too harsh and instead sentenced the defendant to 10 years probation. This was not the end of the story, however. Last December, the defendant was found violating the terms of his probation when a video posted on social media showed him drinking at a party. The defendant subsequently missed court-mandated appointments with his probation officer, and it turned out he had fled with his mother to Mexico. He later returned to the United States after dropping a brief effort to fight extradition. The juvenile court has scheduled a hearing for mid-February to decide if his case should be moved into the adult court system. If the case is transferred, the defendant could face up to 40 years in prison for any future probation violations, according to the Dallas Morning News.

One Case Does Not Represent the System

The “affluenza” case has sparked criticism in many corners that a defendant from a wealthy family was able to essentially buy his way out of a lengthy prison sentence for intoxication manslaughter. While the public outrage here may be understandable, it is important not to jump to any broad conclusions based on a single case. One thing to keep in mind here is that the defendant was under the age of 18 at the time of his crimes, and juveniles are usually treated less severely than adults, even in drunk driving cases. Another thing to note is that even with a good defense lawyer and wealthy parents, a probation or parole violation of any kind subjects you to harsher consequences.

In short, while you cannot necessarily buy your way out of a DWI conviction, you can maximize your chances for a favorable outcome by retaining an experienced Austin DWI defense attorney. Contact the Austin DWI lawyers at The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford today if you need to speak with someone about your case right away.

Are DWIs Down in Austin Due to Uber?

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DWIs down due to Uber?

In the past few years, “ride-sharing” services have become a popular alternative to taxis in cities like Austin. Companies like Uber and Lyft provide smartphone apps which allow people looking for transportation to connect with independent drivers. And while ride-sharing companies tout the social benefits of their services—including a reduction in drunk driving arrests—taxi companies and their supporters have pushed for more local regulation of these new competitors.

Uber launched in Austin nearly two years ago. In October 2014, the Austin City Council voted to allow Uber and other ride-sharing services to operate legally. But the city continues to struggle with regulating ride-sharing. For example, in January 2016 the City Council approved an “opt-in” fingerprint-based background check program for ride-sharing drivers. While the program is not mandatory, only Uber and Lyft drivers who undergo such checks will be allowed to pick up customers at certain locations, such as the Austin airport.

Correlation or Causation?

In lobbying city officials for more favorable regulations, Uber has claimed DWI arrests are down in Austin, at least in part due to ride-sharing. Specifically, Uber cited a March 2015 report, which noted a 16 percent decrease in DWI arrests, according to the Austin Police Department. Uber noted the correlation between the decrease and the fact that was the same year ride-sharing became legal in Austin.

Outside of Austin, there is some academic research that suggests ride-sharing has a positive impact on DWI arrests and drunk driving accidents. A Temple University study of Uber services offered in California between 2009 and 2014 indicated there was a “significant drop in the rate of homicides” following Uber’s entry into the market. But the study’s authors cautioned this was a tentative conclusion based on limited data.

Avoiding a DWI Conviction

While the political controversy over ride-sharing will likely continue for some time, most people agree it is better for people who have been drinking to have more options available for getting home without risking a DWI arrest. After all, the best way to avoid a drunk driving charge is not to drive in the first place.

That said, if you have been charged with DWI, it is important you understand your legal rights. A qualified Austin DWI defense lawyer can assist you with all aspects of your case. Contact the lawyers at The Law Office Of Robert L. Buford today if you need to speak with someone right away.